Canning River, Thornlie to Applecross via Bull Creek, 20.6km, 2 hours 37 minutes.
|Entry point - Ilford Place, Thornlie|
The sea, she was angry that day.
Or so we thought after a quick scan of seabreeze.com.au. With Travis and M4P missing in action, Westy and I decided that it was a good morning to hunt the white whale - breaking the 20km mark. Having looked at Urban Paddler's website we decided to replicate his Canning River run, from Thornlie to Deepwater Point, and customise it to crack the 20km.
After a bit of car shuffling at Deepwater Point, we trekked off down the Leach Highway to parts unknown, putting in at the end of the cul-de-sac at Ilford Place, Thornlie. Firstly I would recommend that those who own flash carbon fibre or composite boats completely ignore this start point. Secondly I would recommend that any future paddlers from here consider taking a hedge trimmer, machete and shotgun. It was a great place to paddle from but we were dodging and weaving through all sorts of spider webs, trip wires, poison darts and big, rolling rocks like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark before we found any sort of open water about 3km in. The going was very slow and the growth so thick at one stage I was sure that I saw a Leyland Brother (obviously the one that is still alive!) and the Bush Tucker Man...
Once we got over the tree stumps, man-traps and the like, the river was spectacular. In fact it was so placid and quiet that it took us nearly six kilometres of paddling before we saw our first confirmed fellow-human. The sound of our bow-waves was pretty much all we could hear.
|Kent St Weir - This is not a slippery dip for skis...|
Before we knew it, we were at the Kent St Weir. Having never been there before, we had talked of just powering straight over it, thinking it might be one of those slippery-dip type weirs that we could slide right down, but luckily common sense prevailed because it was a sheer drop with a lot of concrete at the bottom of some very shallow water. The cafe on the Canning River, near the weir and imaginatively name the err...Canning River Cafe was generating alluring smells of coffee and fried pig and had recently put out $18 breakfast-for-two vouchers on spreets.com.au, and Mrs Blue had urged me to get one. Stupidly, I didn't, so naturally we decided to go there after the paddle so we could pay full price.
|Warsaw (there's lots of Poles)|
We settled into our stride after porting the boats around the weir, focusing on our (lack of) paddling technique. It was good to think of something else besides the disastrous week at the Gorilla Biscuit Factory, where the African Savannah Cookie (ASC) section had been thrown into chaos because of a complete failure of the Elephant Proboscis Unit (EPU) - a machine that gradually lengthens employees noses into elephant trunks for biscuit image authenticity. Unfortunately the failure of this device had quite the effect on company morale, with the natural disappointment that we couldn't produce our entire range of gob-smackingly ugly biscuits.
It wasn't long before we got to the Riverton and Shelley Bridges and began to see more signs of life on the river, including a chap who had put a new exhaust on his V8 Commodore that made it sound uncannily like a Datsun 200B, and make him look like a good candidate for erectile enhancement.
As we rounded the bend into familiar parts of the river around Rossmoyne the wind finally gave us a bit of assistance, but we were completely stuffed as we neared Bull Creek, with 16km showing on the trusty GPS. It was quite obvious that we were going to be short of the 20km trip, so it was necessary to prolong the agony by going right up Bull Creek to add a bit of distance.
|"You were in a 4G inverted dive with a Finn Endorfinn?"|
Past the Mount Henry Bridge was when we saw our tax dollars at work. I'm all for schools getting federal funding, but if it is supporting $15000-per-term St Smithers Exclusive Private Rich Gentlemans Finishing School so Reggie Huntingdon-Smythe-Smythe can row a brand-spanking new carbon fibre 8s scull, then screw it. And the river was covered in them, all being yelled at by a bloke in a boat with a megaphone who had completely missed the idea that it's the megaphone that amplifies your voice, and there is no need to actually scream into it.
The definition of heartbreak isn't arriving at your destination when you are still 1km short of your goal and completely rooted, but isn't far off it. What was worse was the thought of going up to the Canning Bridge and then having to turn back into a 20kt headwind, but we did it anyway, almost falling off the boats as we pulled back in at Deepwater Point. We made it - and just like Captain Ahab we had caught the 20km white whale and this time it didn't look like me in budgie smugglers.
Canning River Cafe, Cnr Kent St and Queens Park Road, Wilson, WA 6107, (08)93584884
|"A cafe. It's on the Canning River. What should we call it? Hmmm, something catchy..."|
It's pretty well known that I'm as tight as a fish's bum. I'm not quite so bad that I wouldn't shout if a shark bit me (which is Un-Australian), but I don't like paying full price if I can help it, so when this place looked and smelt great as we paddled past it I almost refused to come here out of principle, having stupidly not bought the Spreets voucher.
And what a mistake that would have been.
Attached to some sort of eco centre (wasn't the Canning River full of raw sewage poo-kayaks not so long ago??) and situated on a park right next to the Kent St Weir, this place - although a little out of the way - is, in a word, tops. Offering tables as well as a counter-top seating overlooking the river, this cafe has it all. The menu has enough variations on the standard to make it interesting without being over the top, the prices are reasonable, the view excellent and the staff friendly and helpful - they even look you in the eye when they talk to you (personal favorite)!
So having paddled for nearly 3 hours, Westy and I were beyond hungry. I could have chewed the bum out of a low-flying duck (quack!). The Canning River Cafe doesn't take cards - except err... in the ATM right next to the till, which threw me a bit but only long enough for both of us to order a Big Breakfast ($19) and coffees.
As we sat down we thought that this would be a great place to bring the tin lids, what with a playground, the weir, ducks, and the Castledare Railway just down the road. In fact, if I wasn't on the wagon for the month of February (a yearly ritual to prove that I am not a raging alcoholic - If you're going to do it, I recommend the shortest month) I reckon I would have staying here for a swilly lunch as well.
There were plenty of skis and kayaks coming up the river to the weir, including a chap on a pedal-powered Hobie kayak with a sailing rig. I assumed that he mustn't actually have had any arms to require that level of laziness.
The coffees and brekky came out pretty quickly. The Big Breakfast came out with scrambled eggs, tons of bacon, a sausage, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, a potato cake (no, not a scallop or a hash brown - it was more a type of fried mashed potato and was very tasty) and two very large and thick slices of toast. There was also quite a selection of communal help-yourself sauces available.
My scrambled eggs - Westy had poached - were cooked perfectly. They were aerated at all, had a nice amount of butter mixed in, and were bloody good. I always like to pile my bacon onto buttered toast and put the scrambled egg on top, and the bacon was cooked just right to be able to do this. There was no stringy bits, rind or knuckles and it was cut nice and thickly. In fact the whole breakfast was outstanding, and really hit the spot with a couple of hungry paddlers. We liked the package so much that we had to stay for another brew.
P.S. Tip for blokes considering buying frilly knickers for their wife's birthday - DO NOT mention to her friends or anyone connected to her friends that you did your research by googling "redhead lingerie". It won't end well, even if the research was 'thorough'.